Transmission flush vs. pan drop

I need to have the transmission fluid replaced in my 2002 kia sedona. I have done some looking around my area and it seems i can either have the transmission flushed for around $80-90 dollars or take it to a transmission shop, have the pan dropped and have it done that way. The owners manual AND dealership recomend a flush over a pan drop. A pan drop, filter change and such has priced out at around $120 plus the money i will lose for taking a day off work because none of the trans places around me are open on Saturday, while I can have the flush done on a Saturday. So, is it that much better and worth the additional cost and lost wages to go with a pan drop over a transmission flush or will a transmission flush do the job?

I’ll probably be your only vote for a full fluid exchange (which some call a flush). However, it sounds like you want to have it done at an iffy lube type of place. That, I vote against. Go to a dealer or a good independent shop. The best that you could do would be to do both pan drop/filter and then full fluid exchange. However, if money is tight, then the full exchange is the best bang for the buck.

If both the manual and the dealer recommend a flush, and the flush is less expensive than the pan drop, and the flush can be done on a weekend, why wouldn’t you just do the flush?

Not a iffy type of guy. I have a family owned place that has done a number of things for me over the years and always done a great job. they offer a flush as one of their services.

never had one done before, in all my years of owning a car I have only ever changed the trans fluid on a car I owned once and that was via the pan drop done by AAMCO who did a great job and had no issues. So not sure how this "flush’ works differently then a pan drop and such.

Knowing that your Sedona also came with no too much maintenance history, I would go for the filter change this time.

What are the odds of a friend or a taxi getting you to and from work, on that day that you leave the car? Realizing that this adds to the overall cost, but I see these options as cost effective, compared to taking a day off work.

I would not flush - transmission maintenance is one spot where I think that one should just ignore the manual.

I would go for the pan/filter. The dealership is no one to trust on this b/c they probably make a lot more on a flush since a machine actually does most of the work and no one has to get their hands too dirty.

If you want all new fluid then you have someone do the pan & filter - and then you get a “fluid exchange” (rather than a “flush”). This is also machine based but it just pushes out all the old fluid while it is replaced with new.

indy - you post here a lot which is great since you are usually asking the right questions. But this one gets answered at least once a week. Sometimes more than once a day. Take some spare time each day and just hang out here and read. You’ll slowly get a lot of questions answered before you need to ask them.

Not an option, don’t live anywhere near my friends and a taxi would tag on another 80-90 dollars.

Right now i have to chose between the two options, I can not afford to do both. I still have to come up with the funds to have the timing belt/drive belt replaced at $500, a brake job and such.

Also what is the difference between a flush and a fluid exchange?

A transmission fluid flush/exchange are the same thing. Think of it like brake fluid. You use either the brake pedal or a pressurized canister on the master cylinder to flush/exchange the brake fluid. So you’re actually exchanging the transmission fluid using the pump within the transmission. Only a piece of equipment is installed in the loop of the transmission fluid circuit to take advantage of the transmission pump.

Watch this.


A fluid exchange takes the old fluid out of the transmission cooler line and puts new fresh fluid in the return line at the same rate. There’s no cleaning chemicals and no extra pressure on the transmission. Car manufacturers are starting to prefer this method because it changes all the fluid instead of a fraction of it. This allows them to give longer intervals between changes. Not dropping the pan can reduce “service induced failure” events. It can, of course, also allow the filter to clog up.

So if you are removing the old worn out transmission fluid via this process, is the only thing different then dropping the pan is replacing the filter?

That’s if the transmission has a filter to replace. Some don’t!


Okay how do you find out if your transmission has a filter?

Call a parts store, and ask if they list a transmission fluid filter for your vehicle.


I went to the autozone web site and it showed a gasket seal and filter but the filter didn’t look like it was much but then I have never seen what a transmission filter looks like.

Indy, you have been on this site long enough to know that you never, EVER flush a transmission without first dropping the pan and changing the filter. You hear people on this site say “If you are going to change your transmission fluid then why not change it all with a fluid exchange”. Well, I’m going to counter that statement with this: "If you are going to change ALL of your transmission fluid then why change it all and leave a dirty filter in your trans? AND why leave a pan full of trash uncleaned?? I’ll guarantee you that NOBODY can give me an answer to that question that would satisfy me enough to say different because on my benches everyday, I see the end result of improper servicing. Dont let yours end up on someones bench, service it right its an expensive component. Dont listen to ANYONE who tells you otherwise because they obviously have no idea how an automatic transmission works and are the last ones who should be giving advice on how to care for them.


Then why, according to the OP, do both his manual and the dealer recommend a flush? I can’t imagine the dealer is just being generous, because he could charge more for a pan drop/filter change.

Not doubting your expertise, just askin’…

But from what I ahve read doing a pan drop and filter change while good, doesn’t get all the old fluid out. only through flushing the system do you replace all the bad with good. And like i pointed, I can’t afford to do both, not with a duel belt replacment needed and brakes. So are you advocating the drop and clean is better even though all the old fluid isn’t replaced over the flush? Also why wouldn’t the manual and or dealership side on dropping the pan? This is why I am so confused…:wink:

B/c the manufacturer of a transmission really only has an interest in seeing a car last through the end of its warranty period. For many car owners they just want to see their vehicle last.

Lots of manufacturers have actually said that the trans never requires service or have given crazy long service intervals. That is clearly batty. ATRA (Auto Trans Rebuilders Assn) and transman (who is probably an ATRA member) clearly indicate that the #1 cause of transmission failure is fluid breakdown.

The thing is that the longest warranty you’ll ever get from a manufacturer is 100K miles. Well - most transmissions can go that far without servicing. Its just that if it isn’t serviced the odds of experiencing problems soon thereafter start shooting though the roof. But poof - the manufacturer who makes servicing requirements of the trans really easy has help sell a car on its “low maintenance” costs but has avoided any responsibility for the long term issues.

That’s always been my take anyway. (I don’t follow oil life monitors either - but don’t start that discussion).